When DC first announced that Dick Grayson would give up life as a costumed crime-fighter to become an undercover spy, an announcement accompanied by multiple images of Dick pointing a pistol at the viewer, I wasn’t convinced that move took his established character into account.
Rather, I thought DC’s editorial echelon had looked at what type of stories are popular with their main target demographic and not already covered by their line: the spy thrillers of Bond, Bourne, Chuck, Mission Impossible, and their heist counterparts. A few years back, I detected some Bourne influence in how Tim Drake was reworked into Red Robin, but espionage adventures represented an empty space in the company’s “New 52” lineup.
Yet that role seemed all wrong for Dick Grayson. A license to kill for a hero raised never to take a life, especially with guns? Anonymity for a character defined from the start in connection with other heroes, and established in the 1980s as the best and most popular team leader in the DC Universe? Undercover work for a natural entertainer raised in the spotlight? Those contradictions raised the specter of the company arbitrarily inserting a popular character into stories that would be all out of character.
The preview pages for Grayson, #1, showed that the magazine’s writing team, Tim Seeley and Tom King, understand those character traits. Their opening pages show Dick choosing not to fire his gun but to knock out an assailant by throwing it. (Of course we could ask why, if Dick had enough freedom of movement and leverage to throw that gun, he didn’t just conk the other guy on the head with it.) And we read Dick’s thoughts in caption lamenting: “The downside of a solo act. No one around to see you do the cool stuff.”
In other words, Seeley and King immediately reestablished the character as he’s been written for the last two decades. They recognize that precisely because being a gun-toting undercover agent isn’t the best fit for Dick Grayson, that role can create drama in his life as he tries to reconcile his old values with his new job. They couldn’t do much about Dick’s friendships with other heroes outside the “bat family” since those have been largely erased from the “New 52” Universe—but the issue’s final page indicates that Dick’s new role is still closely tied to all the remaining masked crime-fighters.
To be fair, DC’s editorial team might have been looking for that tension all along. But I still give Seeley and King credit for carrying it out.
TOMORROW: Grayson news from Tom King.